Premium Times (Abuja)

17 March 2014

Nigeria: How Jonathan Ordered Me to Spend CBN Billions On Helicopters, FEC Chamber - Sanusi

Photo: Premium Times
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

Nigeria's suspended Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido, accused by President Goodluck Jonathan of wasting public funds on unapproved projects, has provided details of how the president himself personally authorized some of those spending, one of them a multibillion naira purchase of helicopters for the police, and another, a N2.1 billion renovation of the cabinet meeting room in the presidential villa.

Mr. Sanusi said the police project, which also involved buying other security equipment, cost N19.7 billion, and that it was carried out "upon the instruction" of President Jonathan.

The president, he said, also requested that the CBN pay N3.2 billion for the construction of a new counter terrorism centre for the office of the National Security Adviser, alongside other projects.

"Consistent with our policy of development, upon the instruction of His Excellency, the President, the CBN intervened by paying N19.7 Billion to the Ministry of Police Affairs for the purchase of armoured helicopters and other security equipment," he said.

"Also, upon the application of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the CBN paid N2.1 Billion for the automation and renovation of the Federal Executive Council Chamber."

Details of the spending on "intervention projects" are contained in a lengthy statement released by the CBN governor early Sunday.

Mr. Sanusi said he was responding to the government's allegation of financial recklessness against him, a charge Mr. Jonathan said was the basis for his suspension.

The president claimed his decision to suspend the governor followed the recommendation of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, which he said investigated and found Mr. Sanusi as having misspent billions of naira.

But many Nigerians rejected that explanation and accused the president of removing Mr. Sanusi for revealing how state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, diverted over $20 billion oil revenue.

Critics have challenged the government to prosecute Mr. Sanusi if its claims are true, and take a similar action against officials of the NNPC, and the petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who are at the centre of the missing $20 billion.

"Irrespective of the tepid and unconvincing denial by the presidency, it is clear that the main reason the presidency moved against Sanusi is because he blew the lid on the 20 billion dollars funds which the NNPC allegedly failed to remit to the Federation Account," opposition party, All Progressives Congress, APC, said in February after Mr. Sanusi's suspension", the All Progressives Congress, APC, said February after Mr. Sanusi's removal.

In his statement Sunday, Mr. Sanusi said a number of expenditure the CBN considered as interventions, but for which he was now being disparaged by the presidency, were either instigated by President Jonathan, or approved by him.

"The CBN also initiated, with His Excellency, the President's approval, the construction of the International Conference Centre for Nigeria," Mr. Sanusi said.

"His Excellency, the President, also requested that the CBN pay N3.2 Billion for the construction of a new counter terrorism centre for the office of the National Security Adviser."

In the wake of the allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement against the NNPC, government critics accused Mr. Jonathan of deploying revenue-generating agencies of government as his Automated Teller Machine, ATM, for the funding of illicit projects often not covered in federal budgets.

The CBN example, as presented in Mr. Sanusi's statement, appears typical of that allegation.

Besides expenditures he said were captured under the CBN's corporate social responsibilities, the bank, according to the details approved by its embattled governor, appeared always on call to fund an array of government projects not known to the budget, from renovating buildings, to constructing new conference centres, to buying hardware for security units.

The details also highlight a spending spree by a bank that seemed incredibly buoyant, and constantly in search of bills to offset.

It is not clear how these spending were categorized by the president as they were not captured in the budget. Those listed in the budget, such as the purchase of equipment for the police, were supposed to draw funding from the government's central revenue base, and not from the CBN.

Last week, President Jonathan, through his spokesperson, Reuben Abati, upped the government's attack on Mr. Sanusi, declaring him guilty of the allegations against him, ahead of full investigation the government said was being carried out.

But the president dismissed as "untrue and unfounded"- also ahead of complete investigations- Mr. Sanusi's allegation that the NNPC failed to pay $20 billion oil revenue into government treasury.

Mr. Sanusi said all "interventions" carried out by the CBN were not only known to the federal government, but that the government "supported and encouraged" them in "recognition of their positive contribution to development".

"During the recent strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the CBN intervention projects in universities were an important fulcrum in the settlement negotiations between the FG and ASUU as borne out in the Memorandum of Understanding between the FG and ASUU, where the Intervention Projects were recognised as part of the contributions of the FG to Education in tertiary institutions," he said.

He said the Financial Reporting Council itself, his main accuser, was a beneficiary of the CBN's bazaar as "the CBN paid the sum of N220 Million to the FRCN and also organised the banking sector, through the Banker's Committee, to contribute N280 Million, totalling a sum of N500 Million, for the construction of the IFRS Academy."

"All of these requests were duly submitted to the CBN Board of Directors and were duly approved," he said.

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